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Friday, February 3, 2012

Drew Baker, "Stress Position"--Piano Music Played by Marilyn Nonken

The piano meets a new world of sound on Stress Position (New Focus 116). Pianist Marilyn Nonken acquits herself well as the piano soloist, ably assisted on "Gaeta" by Drew Baker, second piano, & Sean Connors and Peter Martin on water percussion.

It's an interesting collection of works in the new avant classical mode, which means it seeks to realize sound textures more than produce an abstract canvas of expanded, jagged tonality. So in "Gaeta" we have atmospheric water percussion murking and droning to set up inside the piano and otherwise contextual key-sound expansions. "Asa Nisi Masa" has very quiet beginnings and a wistful sort of sparse note and cluster ambiance. "Gray" continues the mood with very quiet emptiness punctuated by delicate tone reminiscences from an unspecified life-past, if you will. "National Anthem" has more of that and completes the mood. The finale, "Stress Position" amplifies the piano for a rhythmical tattoo that starts in the very lower register and builds, adding higher frequency clusters. Not to be flip, but it does remind me of the sort of thing one did on the piano as a kid to imitate Native American music. It's well done at that, though.

In the end one is left with a feeling that a very definite compositional mood-set and ambiance has been put forward with success and a discerning sound-tone painting talent. Don't expect Chopin and listen on its own terms and you will no doubt get something good from it.

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